When it comes to homeownership, members of Generation Z are demanding sustainable homes, and developers and builders must deliver
By Steve Smith
According to a report from Bank of America, more than half of Generation Zers (those born from 1997 onward) say they plan on buying a home within the next five years. And the patterns that are emerging among those who already have a mortgage reveal a telling shift: Where older generations typically looked for the “wow” factor of a new home, Gen Z’s priorities go deeper than aesthetics.
For example, studies show members of Gen Z are deeply concerned about climate change, as it impacts them no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Brands in virtually every industry realize this, and they’re implementing processes and introducing products that help address those concerns. It would be wise for home builders and developers to follow suit.
The Younger, Eco-Minded Homebuyer
The goal of homeownership isn’t just wishful thinking for most of Generation Z. In fact, more than 52 percent of Gen Z-ers are already saving up for it, with the goal of investing in zero-energy homes (or as close to zero energy as they can get). The challenge, however, is that many contractors still promote inefficient HVAC systems and other antiquated systems.
Baby Boomers have also been traditionally concerned with efficiency — but often to boost their return on investment. For Gen Z, it is not about making or saving money; it is about trying to save the environment and create clean energy. Members of this generation want to invest in homes that match their values. As they gain a bigger edge in the homebuying market, Generation Z’s only other major concern is space.
The goal of homeownership isn’t just wishful thinking for most of Generation Z. In fact, more than 52 percent of Gen Z-ers are already saving up for it, with the goal of investing in zero-energy homes (or as close to zero energy as they can get).
Some builders are already stepping up to meet both priorities — space and sustainability — by utilizing materials like foam insulation, PV solar arrays, and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Building a Renewable Energy Home Market
As the more environmentally friendly homebuyer market grows, having solar, geothermal, and other renewable systems will become standard in new homes. This will not only help normalize such techniques, but it will also boost awareness of their benefits and how they contribute to a higher standard of clean-energy living.
For example, Whisper Valley in Austin, Texas, is a massive development that will have 7,500 zero-energy homes when it’s completed. All homes will have foam insulation, geothermal heating, and solar panels. To date, numerous builders have embraced the new technologies and joined the development project.
Whisper Valley and projects like it provide an excellent framework for builders to learn how to implement similar solutions. For example, the National Association of Home Builders uses specific development techniques, materials, and designs to minimize its homes’ environmental impact and conserve natural resources.
Some builders may face major hurdles like dealing with subcontractors who aren’t open to change or who are unwilling to embrace these new technologies. Thus, builders might have to make the tough decision between sticking to the status quo and looking for new subcontractors who are more open to change.
Fortunately, more subcontractors are also realizing the importance of meeting Generation Z’s demand for cleaner energy homes and are eager to embrace it. Plus, premium companies are always inviting builders to learn more about heat pumps and PV solar arrays (as well as learn strategies for standardizing them in their projects).
Fortunately, more subcontractors are also realizing the importance of meeting Generation Z’s demand for cleaner energy homes and are eager to embrace it.
Education and awareness are two things Gen Z covets. And it’s imperative we leverage both to provide sustainable homes for the future.
Steve Smith is founder and CEO of GeoComfort Geothermal Systems, a geothermal heat pump manufacturer. Geothermal heating and cooling harnesses the earth’s power to transfer natural heat in the winter and cool air in the summer — all in a completely eco-friendly, sustainable way.